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on 30 May 2002
This Atlas of the Stars will take your breath away, there's no doubt about that. Serge Brunier has got together with acclaimed astro-photographer Akira Fujii to produce a wonderful view of the night sky with stunning, crystal-clear photographs accompanied by informative narration and star data.
The main focus is a tour through 30 of the author's favourite constellations from both the northern and southern hemispheres of the sky. On each occasion, a large photograph of the constellation has a clear plastic overlay with the important features marked. Leave the overlay on to see the brightest stars, galaxies and clusters labelled then refer to them on the adjacent page where their distances, luminosities and general facts are shown with a small close-up picture. Then lift the overlay to see the photograph in all its unhindered glory.
It's a simple but very effective system and several constellations merit further images with even more detail shown. You just can't help but continue through the book, marvelling at both the quality of the imaging and the beauty of the subject matter itself.
That's not to say that the book is perfect. Constellations consist of objects of widely varying brightness and inevitably any photograph which exposes bright stars correctly will not show faint galaxies at all. Conversely, if the exposure is long enough to reveal those faint objects, the nearby and hugely brighter stars will be hopelessly over-exposed. The book tends to go with the first method, and hence labels galaxies and clusters which cannot be discerned in the photo itself.
In addition, the small close-up shots on the data page are often vague - double stars in particular leave you wondering exactly which two stars you are supposed to be looking at.
These are minor points however, and this book will appeal to seasoned astronomers and interested newcomers alike. As light pollution from towns and cities dims our view of the heavens more and more, a book like this is a delight to behold and merits a place in anyone's collection.
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